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Die ESTA-Reisegenehmigung ist für Urlauber eine passende Alternative zum Visum, Bild: DesignRage / shutterstock

USA vacation with ESTA

For a vacation or short business trips to the USA, it is not mandatory to apply for a US visa. Faster, less complicated and cheaper than a visa is the ESTA travel authorization.

ESTA allows U.S. travelers from 39 countries to travel visa-free to the United States and stay in America for up to 90 days at a time. The 90-day trip can be repeated as many times as you like within the 2-year validity period of the ESTA authorization.

The 39 participating countries whose nationals are allowed to travel to the U.S. with ESTA are called “VWP countries” because they are members of the Visa Waiver Program . Lucky participants in the U.S. Simplified Travel Program also include Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

However, there are other requirements to be allowed to travel to the USA with ESTA. In addition to citizenship in one of the visa waiver countries, these also refer to the purpose of the trip and certain personal characteristics or events in the traveler’s CV.

Requirements for traveling to the USA with ESTA

Citizens of the Visa Waiver Program countries are allowed to travel to the U.S. with ESTA if they have a valid biometric passport (e-passport) that will not expire during the trip to America.

Also, ESTA is only intended for private or short business trips. For longer U.S. trips or further purposes such as a job in the U.S., a visa must be applied for.

The time and financial advantages of an ESTA authorization are offset by only a few restrictions. For example, clear boundaries and rules are imposed on ESTA applicants, which start with the application process.

Questions in the ESTA application

A series of questions about the identity of the ESTA applicant is intended to give the US government an impression of whether the applicant is “worthy” of visa-free entry to the USA. These include, for example:

  • Do you suffer from physical or mental ailments that make you a danger to yourself and others?
  • Do you suffer from diseases that can be transmitted to others and are likely to be fatal?
  • Are you looking for a job in the United States or have you ever been employed in the United States without authorization?
  • Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry to the United States?
  • Have you ever stayed in the United States longer than allowed?
  • Have you ever been denied an ESTA authorization?
  • Do you have a criminal record?
  • Have you ever provided false information when registering for an ESTA?
  • Have you ever applied for a U.S. immigrant visa?
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In addition, the names of the parents, social media accounts, aliases used (nicknames) and the contact details of the employer are asked.

Always stick to the truth

Attractions USA
Experience the diversity of the country on vacation in the USA, Image: Darth_Vector / shutterstock

If the applicant deliberately or accidentally answers incorrectly or makes other (formal) errors in the application, he or she will be immediately excluded from the ESTA procedure. This exclusion cannot be reversed and means that a visa must be applied for every trip to the USA from this point on.

This immediate closure is a precautionary measure of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and is intended to increase security in the country. However, it leads to many “innocent” ESTA dropouts every year and thus also to unnecessary costs and high time expenditure for US travelers.If you want to prevent a lifelong ban by the American authorities, you pay meticulous attention to accuracy when applying for an ESTA.

The difference between ESTA and visa

Apart from the strict formal requirements for an ESTA application, visa-free travel with ESTA has almost only advantages:

Latency Max. 72 hours 15 days and longer
Additional documents No Yes
Interview date not required required
Cost from 39,90 €
(with the support of the ESTA-Online experts)
from 150 €

Suitable for


Business travellers


Tourists, business travelers,

Employees, students, pupils, trainees


Most of the bureaucratic inconveniences, such as additional evidence of the exact purpose of the trip, are spared US travelers when applying for an ESTA.

Applying for an ESTA: This is how it works

For an ESTA application, the passport data of all persons who want to travel to the USA together is required. In addition, there is the information about the destination (the first overnight address in the USA is sufficient here), information about the current employer and an emergency contact. In addition, the applicant needs a valid e-mail address.

The U.S. government’s security questions must also be answered for all travelers. Applicants should therefore have all answers and easy-to-read scans of all passports ready before starting the application.

The application form is completed on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website or at an ESTA service provider. The latter is recommended if an applicant would like more security.

At ESTA-online, an ESTA application is checked by an expert before it is submitted to the US authorities, for example, an official document for the travel documents is issued and a money-back guarantee is granted in the event of rejection. In addition, there are German-speaking contact persons who can help with subsequent changes or questions.

It only takes about 15 minutes to fill out. Approximately 72 hours after the ESTA application, the applicant will find out whether the travel authorization has been granted or not, either during the self-check on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website or through an email from the ESTA service provider.

When to apply for an ESTA?

It is important to apply for an ESTA no later than 72 hours before the planned trip to the United States, otherwise the American authorities will not be able to guarantee timely approval. To be on the safe side, it is best to apply for an ESTA at the beginning of the travel planning process.